The Last of Us Part II Remastered Review

The Last of Us Part II Remastered on PlayStation 5

It’s only been three and a half years since The Last of Us Part II’s release on PlayStation 4, but now may be the perfect time for a remaster to be released.

Kaitlyn Dever has just been cast as Abby in Season Two of HBO’s show, so the story is at the front of everyone’s minds as it enters production.

Like I’m sure many of you feel, I don’t think The Last of Us Part II needed a remaster, but releasing the game on PS5 now is a smart move from PlayStation.

As you’d imagine, the new PS5 version looks phenomenal, just as the Part 1 re-release did. Part II will have started from a better place, but the visuals are on-par, if not better than every PlayStation 5 original.

The overgrown Seattle, snow-covered Jackson, and locations such as the decaying movie theatre look significantly more detailed, but it’s Part II Remastered’s lighting that’s the real step up. Atmosphere is a huge part of Naughty Dog’s series, and the new version makes use of the current generation’s additional power.

It’s hard to say much more about Part II that hasn’t already been said. From shocking start to painful finish, the story is a masterclass in writing and world building. Almost no other series does quiet conversation like The Last of Us.

The characters may be flawed people, but it’s impossible not to be enthralled during every second you spend with them. Without ruining anything, I enjoy the slower moments more than the dramatic set-pieces. There’s massive amounts of heart in Part II’s story.

screenshot of Abby from behind in a forest
Image Source: PlayStation

Unless you’re refreshing your memory ahead of the TV show’s return, there’s not much need to rush back if you’ve played the story in the last few years. If you’ve never played it, though, this is now the best way to do so.

Ellie’s second adventure is unforgettable, so it’s hard to complain about it being given a little love for a remaster.

Away from the modern-classic story mode, The Last of Us Part II Remastered has a few new features. Guitar Free-Play mode, some Lost Levels, and a survival mode called No Return.

The Guitar mode is cool if that’s a part of the game you enjoy and you have the musical ear to be creative, but it of course doesn’t have the emotion of the first time Ellie picks up and plays solo in the story.

The Lost Levels are a disappointing addition. I understand they’re unfinished levels that we weren’t ever supposed to see, but they didn’t do anything for me.

They’re short, very unfinished (one lacks sound entirely), and don’t feature any narrative beats that add context to the main game.

Some tidbits from the developer commentary and Neil Druckmann’s introduction do provide interesting insight into where these levels were at in the development cycle. That’s all there really is to them, though. Check them out in 10 minutes or so, see what they are, and check out. They’re not levels you’re ever likely to replay.

Continuing the recent trend of PlayStation exclusives adding rogue-like (sort of in this case) survival modes, after the brilliant Valhalla mode in God of War Ragnarok, Part II’s No Return mode is the main new addition.

As one of the game’s 12 characters, you take on increasingly challenging combat scenarios, earning parts and currency to spend on upgrades between each stage. You’ll be quietly taking out small waves in Hunted encounters, or racing against the clock to stay alive in others, before heading back to the safe room to unlock skills and new gear ahead of the final boss stage.

As individual combat challenges, they’re fun enough. Preparing differently for each type of encounter, figuring out which of the differently playing characters work best for you, and learning the impact of the sometimes wacky modifiers is fun. If you’re someone who likes to test yourself – whack the difficulty up and see how you do, as the runs get challenging quickly.

the start of a run path on the board in No Return
Image Source: PlayStation via Twinfinite

However, I don’t enjoy the overall structure of the No Return mode. It lacks the progression aspect that most survival or run based action games do. Beyond challenge completion to unlock characters and skins, nothing at all carries over between runs. No skills, weapons, gear. Nothing.

The only progression is getting further, if you don’t complete a run on your first try, or completing a run on a higher difficulty to get a better score that you can boast about on the leaderboards. Every run is starting from the beginning again, albeit with a few different toys to try.

As much as I’ve always enjoyed The Last of Us’s combat, I would never call it the series’ biggest strength, so the mode doesn’t stand up on the combat alone for me. Love The Last of Us combat for what it is? Great. Attempting run after run to get a high score might get you hooked.

There’s not much more to No Return than that, though. It’s a changing series of combat arenas, rather than a survival or rogue-like mode, which is disappointing. I never felt compelled to try again after a run, as I knew it’d just be a slightly altered version of the same experience, whether it was the first or 100th go.

The new content in The Last of Us Part II Remastered as a whole is disappointing. The story mode is one of the all-time greats. Emotional, gripping, phenomenally written, and intense at times, this is the best way to play an absolute must-play. Therefore, it’s impossible to not recommend it. It’s just a shame the additional modes don’t come close to living up to it.

The Last of Us Part II

Reviewer: Tom Hopkins

Award: Editor’s Choice